February 14, 2008

Stealing the Start.

Imagine that, the Microsoft powered, Mclaren built computers that all Formula 1 teams will be running this year have a bug...
This bug allowed team to circumvent the control software and in effect implement a "launch control" outlawed by the 2008 regulations.

I'll translate and paraphrase excerpts from an article in this week's Autosprint,

Five weeks to the start of the championship and we have the first electronics case. The issue is related to the starts: the Mclaren supplied electronic control unit used by all teams has a bug. To explain in a simplified manner: the new units allow control over a set number of vehicle parameters though a more limited amount than in the past.  To counter the absence of traction control, all teams worked on regulating engine mapping and torque to the wheels. The knobs you see on Ferrari (and other teams) steering wheels are used to choose these different engine maps.

As part of the new regulations and to avoid extreme settings that would in effect allow for robot starts, the Mclaren Electronic System is set up so that whatever setting you chose for the start would stay locked until the car crossed the start finish line after one lap.  Choose a map that allowed for a quick start and you might be penalized on the fast turns for the rest of the first lap.

It did not take long however for teams to discover that if three control buttons are pressed in a specific sequence the computer would give up its electronic protection. In other words the computer could not prevent the driver from changing settings right after a start. This would explain some of the lightning starts seen in testing and Jarno Trulli's remarks on traction control and start assist.  If a team could use a map which would assist the start and then quickly switch to a "speed" map well, in effect, you would have a form of electronic aid.

The FIA, once this was brought to their attention recognized there was a defect in the software and will introduce a fix, but insiders ask how many more bugs might still be in the spec. computers. Once again we face the prospect of the winner being the most clever rather than the best driver, but at least this time it's not the teams that are at fault.


  1. crtl-alt-delete from a steering wheel. NOW, that is cool!

  2. Rather than email you guys- the offcamber brake pad ad-link is dead. I guess they're using a new store CMS? (feel free to delete me)


nRelate Posts Only